The Heart of A Pastor Part III
The Heart of A Pastor Part III
Final article in a three-part series
Best Practice for Pastoral Ministry
Essentially, Jesus’ example constitutes best practice for present pastoral ministry. It goes against the selfish grain of today’s thinking and looking out for “me.” Instead, it considers others with the view of helping them to know the Good Shepherd and committing to Him. As such, it is important that today’s pastors know Jesus personally. For how does one model or represent Him without knowing and spending time with the Him? Says the Apostle Peter when confronted by the lame man for assistance in Acts 3, “’Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up” (Acts 3:6, 7, NKJV). That which Peter possessed was faith because of knowing Jesus personally --especially given the manner Jesus related to Peter when he had denied Him several times. It was personal, and it was touching in the way that Jesus reached out to Peter and pardoned him as recorded by Mark: “But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:7, NKJV). One can argue that there was no need to single out Peter as the term “disciples” was used, and it covered all disciples. But that Jesus did so shows His heart of compassion, forgiveness and acceptance toward Peter. Hence, Peter is manifesting a shepherd’s heart for the lame man. Apart from faith, Peter possessed a short but powerful message: “rise up and walk” and the record says Peter took him by the “right hand.” Ministering to others must be seasoned with faith, compassion, hope and genuine care. So it is important that the pastor knows Christ as evidenced by Peter on the occasion when confronted by Jesus as to whether he and the other disciples would also abandon Him as had others: “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6: 66). To the contrary, Peter professed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68, 69, NKJV).
Beyond Best Practices –The Ideal Practice and Model
Therefore, one can deduce that more than just a template, Jesus’ example ought to inform and influence the pastor’s actions and mode of operation. For example, one is led to note His concern for the wedding attendants at Cana of Galilee in John 2. It is obvious that He is interested in the physical and social needs of members and non-church members. In John 4, He pays personal attention to the woman at the well. Unfortunately, his disciples saw a Samaritan and a non-Jewish woman, but Jesus saw a person to be saved, and one with great evangelistic potential. Talk about a pastor’s heart of discernment! In commenting on this encounter, Ellen White explains, “It seemed a small matter, even to His disciples, for the Saviour to spend His time upon a woman of Samaria. . . She proved herself a more effective missionary than His own disciples (The Desire of Ages, Vol. 3, pp. 194–195). As noted already in John 6, with all of His efforts to reach the Jewish nation, many of the Jews rejected Him especially when He failed to comply with the desire to make Him king (John 6:14, 15). They got upset with Him, but as a caring pastor He goes to great lengths to reach them. Yet, they rejected Him, baffled as to how could He be from heaven when His parents were supposedly Mary and Joseph (John 6:42). Furthermore, Jesus is insulted and lambasted in John 8:41. However, He would not be deterred as He reaches out to a woman caught in adultery; He does not only heal the man born blind in John 9, but He is there to receive this grateful soul when rejected by his church leaders.
Embracing The Good Shepherd Model Leads to Long time Commitment
The examples recorded in John’s gospel tell us that shepherding calls for commitment and a strong belief that God has gifted one for pastoral ministry; otherwise, he or she is not likely to survive (refer to John 15 regarding the vine and branch connection). The joy of ministry comes in knowing that one is fulfilling Christ’s mission. Cognizant of this purpose and design by God, gives one meaning and fulfillment in ministry. In fact, I would imagine that Jesus portrayed this in His actions of John 13. The first few verses of John 13 show that Jesus knew Himself. He knew from whence He came. He knew where He was headed, and He also knew His mission. Therefore, as noted in verse 4, He rose from the table and began to wash feet when nobody else volunteered to do so. Indeed, He was moved by love that drew Him to a service of humility. On the other hand, the disciples did not venture to stoop down and wash each other’s feet or their Master’s feet for fear of being excluded from leadership consideration. Again, I am challenged by Christ’s selfless example, as I cannot boast of being any better than the disciples. As I view Christ’s example my motive is exposed. But the Good Shepherd, knowing His flock, knew that they needed a heart cleansing; and He knew that they needed a visible lesson. Indeed, He possessed the heart of a pastor - one that could read motives and not respond in the manner that He was treated. Is it any wonder that He is considered the model pastor? He possesses a heart of compassion, understanding and love. Without question, He is the Good Shepherd and One to be embraced!
A Need to be Committed to The Good Shepherd
Reading the book of John, it is seen time and time again where Jesus implores His audience to believe in Him. For example, John 3:16, 4:48, 5:24, 6:29, 14:1-3, etc. Grasping this concept, John themed his book on the concept of belief as recorded in chapter 20 and verse31: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (NKJV). And thus, one may deduce that the Good Shepherd motif provides not just a model but contents for today’s pastors to teach and preach, and for the priesthood of believers to live out. When this is manifested, individual lives, families, societies, countries and ultimately the world would be impacted with hope and salvation. After all, did not the Good Shepherd enjoin His followers to preach the good news to the world for it is what mankind created by Him needs? Manifested and proclaimed by His servants, such a message will have a positive and transforming impact on nations. People will get a sense of God and His love in sending Jesus and, hopefully, come to know Him. And to know Him is eternal life as proclaimed: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3 NKJV). What a Model! What a Good Shepherd! But do we believe? Hopefully, believing Jesus will lead us to demonstrate an altruistic heart of love, service, understanding and care.